Mr O' />

Labour has shunned using new blood to win back its one-time West Coast stronghold, and will instead rely on former minister Damien O'Connor.

Mr O'Connor held West-Coast Tasman for five terms but was ousted at the election in a loss that symbolised the party's "disconnection" with voters. Mr O'Connor joined the Labour's caucus on its three-day "reconnection" visit to the West Coast this week.

The 51-year-old is next in on Labour's list and the impending retirement of Michael Cullen will see him return to Parliament shortly.

Labour leader Phil Goff said he expected that Mr O'Connor would contest West Coast-Tasman again.

"There was no sense of antipathy towards Damien, but a sense that people would be glad to have him back as a voice for the Coast and I think he will build on that to win the electorate in 2011," Mr Goff said.

Mr Goff said the Westport-born Mr O'Connor was keen and had strong local support.

Mr O'Connor, who had a torrid time as Corrections Minister, lost to National's Chris Auchinvole by 971 votes.

It was only the second time Labour had lost the Coast, the other coming in National's 1990 landslide.

The loss had further symbolism in that Labour can trace its origins to the West Coast, with the party evolving in part from the "Red Feds" movement and miner's strikes of the early 1900s.

Mr Goff said he visited Blackball and its former Hilton hotel, where there was a sense of Labour's history of "ordinary working people fighting hard for the rights that we take for granted today."

Mr Goff said 35 of Labour's 43 MPs and new party president Andrew Little took part in the three-day visit, which included various visits to schools, mines, councils and workplaces. Labour held a function at the Runanga Workingmen's Club.

Mr Goff said: "Coasters are pretty blunt people and they will tell you what they're thinking", and there was some strong feeling about Labour's stopping of logging of native forest on Department of Conservation land while in government.

Mr Goff said there was a sense of resentment that those on the West Coast would soon be paying six cents a litre in petrol tax to subsidise roading developments in Auckland.

Mr Goff said there was anxiety about what the National Government was planning for ACC.

"The West Coast's traditional industry was coal mining, and there were a lot of fatalities and a lot of injuries. People had fought hard for the rights to coverage after workplace injury and the thought they might be under threat was a concern."